Jodie Cooper and Pauline Menczer took different paths to the top, but faced the same macho surfing culture

7:50 PM in News by thomasadmin

Jodie Cooper could ride the biggest waves the Australian ocean hurled at her. Yet that wasn’t the only thing that caught the attention of the surfing community in the 1980s.

“People thought she was absolutely gorgeous,” says her protegee and fierce surfing competitor, Pauline Menczer.

As an amateur, Pauline collected surfing magazines and studied the styles of the handful of women who were already competing professionally, when they were occasionally featured.

She remembers Jodie Cooper as one of her idols.

A black and white photo of a woman surfing a large wave.
Jodie Cooper surfed some of the biggest waves in the world.(Supplied)

Jodie consistently ranked in the top three in the world and carved success out of the formidable waves of Hawaii, where she would go on to win two major international titles in 1992.

Yet there was always “this sentence in the background” that followed after Jodie, in whispers: “Bummer she’s gay, though.”

Bondi’s dark history

The eastern suburbs of Sydney had a much a poorer and rougher reputation than the gentrified image they now enjoy.

Jodie remembers it as an intensely macho culture, unfriendly to gay men and women and intensely focused on surfing.

“Bondi was a tough town, and there were a lot of tough guys in the water that surfed,” she says.Listen to the episodeFrom the heartbreaking to the hilarious, each episode of Days Like These introduces you to one regular human as they live through something wild.Read more

Pauline had just won the World Amateur Surfing Championships and was living in Bondi in 1989 when she turned her attention to going professional.

That year, a neighbour she was friendly with in her street, John Russell, died at only 31 years of age.

His body was found at the base of cliffs near Marks Park, a local gay beat, and his death declared accidental by police.

A coroner later ruled his death a homicide. In 2015, NSW Police offered a $100,000 reward for information about his death, acknowledging its link to “gay hate-related crimes”.

Bondi was the backdrop for a horrific crime spree that remains largely unresolved: the gay-hate murders of dozens of victims across Sydney in the 1980s and 90s.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in New South Wales in 1984, but the years following saw a wave of homophobic violence that was met with “indifference” by police, impacting on the protection and delivery of justice to victims, a NSW parliamentary inquiry found in 2019.

“I think that was the sad thing about that generation, about gay people,” Jodie says.

“People just treated us like we were lepers.”

Things were not much better in the water. Macho surf culture celebrated men’s success, while women were relegated mostly to the bikini competitions held between heats.

Female surfers faced a fight for any kind of professional recognition: in the media, through sponsorship and on tour.

“We were second-class citizens in a way,” Jodie says. “And of course being, on top of that, gay. Well, no-one really came out.”

Growing up on the eastern beaches

Pauline’s childhood had been shaped by the poverty and violence that once characterised the eastern suburbs.

After the unexplained deaths of her grandfather and father when she was five, her mother and grandmother were left to raise her and her three siblings alone.

In her early teens, her brother snapped his surfboard down the middle, and Pauline took one broken half to try out the waves. It was love at first ride.

Almost immediately, she had a laser-like focus on making a career out of the sport.

“It was surreal when you got to meet all these pro surfers,” she says.

“You look at a few pictures — and the next thing you know, you’re one of the women on tour.”

A woman with black hair and in purple swimmers surfing on top of a wave.
Pauline Menczer was one of the world’s best surfers in her heyday.(Supplied)

Jodie and Pauline both trained in Bondi and travelled to competitions together, meeting regularly in the water.

“She obviously heard that I was gay. So I think she was probably quite terrified of me,” Jodie says.

“I think Pauline and a few of the other girls had that mentality, because they just weren’t educated.”

But there was a common enemy the female surfers could unite against: the sexism of the professional surf tournaments.

Fighting for equality

Successful women in surfing were usually given a fraction of the prize money male athletes received.

On competition days, officials would assess the waves in the mornings to determine the order for the day.

Women were sent out in high tide or high winds, and would have their heat interrupted if conditions improved again, so that the men’s competition could benefit from the better waves.

“We just started saying we’re not going to put up with it anymore,” Jodie says.

A documentary exploring the history of women in surfing, Girls Can’t Surf, describes how during one competition in South Africa in 1999, international female professional surfers started pushing back, together.

“I just said: ‘Let’s not paddle out,'” Pauline says.

The women appointed a representative to notify officials that as a group they would not compete in unsatisfactory conditions.

“It was good that there was that solidarity there,” Pauline says.

A growing relationship

Meanwhile, as they trained, toured and partied together, Pauline and Jodie’s friendship also grew.

“Jodi introduced me to going to Mardi Gras, and so I was around thousands of gay people. I’m just like: ‘Wow, this is amazing. You can just be yourself,'” Pauline says.

One day, while lying in bed with a boyfriend, a thought entered Pauline’s head: “It would be so nice if this guy was a girl.”

“And then I stopped myself and went, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?'”

She steeled herself to tell Jodie. “I’m like, ‘You know, I think I’m pretty sure I’m gay,'” Pauline recalls.

“[Jodie] and her girlfriend just absolutely started cracking up laughing, going: ‘You only just realise now?'”

Jodie says Pauline was “lucky, really, to have us around”.

“It was a pretty hard thing to do in those days.”

Two young women standing in the front doors of an old brown Beetle car.
As they trained, toured and spent more time together, Pauline and Jodie’s friendship grew.(Supplied)

The prospect of coming out to the wider surf community was another matter. To Pauline it felt like “almost a life or death situation”.

She remembers hearing that a fellow surfer had been attacked and ended up with a punctured lung for holding her girlfriend’s hand while walking down the street.

The revelations about John Russell’s murder only intensified her reluctance to be publicly out later in her career.

In interviews, when Pauline was asked about the woman who was always seen travelling with her, she would tell journalists it was her coach. It was, in fact, her girlfriend.

Pauline says fear kept her in the closet her entire career — as well as the desire to find companies to sponsor her.

“If they knew that you were gay, there was definitely no way that you would get sponsored,” she says.

Two different experiences of success

Jodie’s reputation as a photogenic, big wave rider led to long-term sponsorship deals that gave her some financial security.

Then Jodie made the decision to come out on tour — or rather, not to hide the fact that she was in a stable, long-term relationship with a woman.

A blonde woman sitting at a desk and looking at the camera.
Jodie Cooper was an icon in the surfing community, but that didn’t ensure equal treatment.(Supplied)

“I know for a fact it made people question me a lot,” she says.

“I know that the sponsors, when they found out I was gay — I heard it first-hand from someone — that they weren’t really happy about it.

“They needed to cull some people, so they decided that I probably would be the first on the chopping block.”

In contrast, Pauline had long been forced to fundraise just to travel from tournament to tournament.

In Hawaii in 1993 she reached the pinnacle of surfing success: she was declared world champion, grabbing the title from the female athletes she had once idolised in magazines, including Jodie.

She was noted for overcoming the chronic arthritis that had plagued her since she was a child, and the financial instability she had faced throughout her career, with no sponsor.

“I thought: ‘Now I’m world champion, surely I’ll get a sponsor easy,'” Pauline remembers.

But once again, the sport’s method of assessing the value of male and female athletes turned out to be very different.

Pauline received a call from her coach (her actual coach, not her girlfriend).

A woman with short dark hair and a blue shirt looking at the camera.
Even as a world champion, Pauline Menczer struggled to get sponsorship.(Supplied: Stephen Dupont)

“He said: ‘I have to tell you this off-record, but one of the major surf brands doesn’t want to sponsor you because you don’t have the look they want,'” Pauline says.

“I’m a freckle-faced, black-haired woman, whereas all these other girls are tall, blonde hair, blue eyes.”

Over her two-decade-long career, Pauline says she was only sponsored financially for about five years.

“And the only company who sponsored me at the time didn’t know about it. They didn’t know I was gay.”

Life after professional surfing

Eventually, both Pauline and Jodie walked away from the sport, and now live just a few kilometres away from one another on the north coast of NSW.

“She still surfs better than me. She still catches more waves than me,” Jodie says.

“No way,” Pauline replies, laughing. “You’re the wave hog.”

Jodie is eager to point out her positive experience in surfing: she went on to be sponsored by a company that knew she was gay.

“It wasn’t all doom and gloom and downer — most of it was, but there were some genuine people out there,” she says.

When describing the surf culture of their era, Jodie and Pauline use the words “homophobic” and “misogynist”, but speak about their careers without the kind of bitterness they could have held onto in retirement.

“If we could press rewind, I’d go back and do it again. And I wouldn’t change anything, I don’t think,” Pauline says.

Jodie Cooper and Pauline Menczer today
Jodie and Pauline now look back at their careers and say it wasn’t all “doom and gloom”.(ABC: Samantha Turnbull)

What’s clear is the change they did effect, paving the way for future generations of surfing women.

Jodie was inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame in 2020, two years after Pauline was recognised.

In the meantime, the sport has made significant inroads to address its gender inequality issues, including introducing equal prize money for men and women in 2019.

“I just couldn’t stop crying. I was just so happy, and I never thought it would happen in my lifetime,” Pauline says.

Jodie agrees. “I was pretty emotional, pretty excited for the girls.”

“And then I started getting the calculator out and working out how much money I would have made back in the day.”

Just this week, a crowdfunding campaign aimed to raise $25,000 in donations for Pauline, who as world champion in 1993 had to spend that amount — most of her prize winnings from that year — just to travel to competitions.

The fundraiser has since raised over $40,000, and Pauline will donate the remainder to other charities.

And despite the challenges she faced, Jodie says she has no regrets about having lived openly as a gay athlete at a time when homophobia was rampant.

“I just felt it was a moral injustice, and I just couldn’t personally walk the planet knowing that I hadn’t done my bit to try and change people,” she says.

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9:44 PM in Members' blogs, Site Info by Jade BC Wolf

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Artist Stephen Milner’s Work Creates an Alternative, Queer Surf History

8:27 AM in Art, Members' blogs by thomasadmin

“A SPIRITUAL GOOD TIME” FLIPS SURF MEDIA’S HISTORICALLY-HETERO-MALE GAZE ON ITS HEAD

Originally published by SURFER

“Sex sells” is an adage that publishers and agency executives have embraced since time immemorial. And, historically speaking, perhaps no media space has committed to that line more than surfing. From John Peck’s classic “Penetrator” surfboard to Lightning Bolt ads featuring Rory Russell encircled by bikini-clad models to the faceless Reef girls hawking sandals, surf marketing and media have a long, not-so-subtle history of sexualizing our aquatic lifestyle. Hell, this magazine once just ran the word “SEX” in all caps as a cover blurb in the early ‘00s.

The iron-clad rule of that sexualization, especially in decades past, was that it must always embody a male, heteronormative perspective. The historic depiction of women in surf media? Seldom very clothed, often objectified, sometimes even when it came to some of the greatest female surfers of all time. Men? Also scantily clad, sure, but typically either ripping the bag out of waves or surrounded by beautiful, half-naked women in advertisements. “Yeah these guys hunt exotic waves around the world while perpetually in the company of other men, but they’re as straight as the day is long,” the ads seemed to insist, “and you can be, too, for the price of these boardshorts!”

While this imagery was surely alienating for most LGBTQ surfers (not to mention women), at least one saw a unique opportunity in the hyper-sexualized hetero-normativity of old surf mags. Enter Stephen Milner, a San Diego-based surfer and artist whose upcoming book, “A Spiritual Good Time”, appropriates old images from surf magazines and places them in an entirely new context – one that creates a vision of a far more queer-friendly surf culture.

“When it comes down to it, masculinity in surfing is extremely fragile — once you start poking at it, it just comes apart,” says Milner. “Looking at old surfing magazines, a lot of the images that I’m appropriating in this book or showing in my solo shows, I literally cut out women who were posing in bikinis underneath these men. It might be a wetsuit ad, so the bikini has nothing to do with the wetsuit — she’s just there to create sexual indulgence. When I started to cut out these sections, I started to feel that I had my own power to control the narrative in these mass-produced magazines.”

We recently gave Milner a call to learn more about the concept behind “A Spiritual Good Time” (which you can pre-order We recently gave Milner a call to learn more about the concept behind “A Spiritual Good Time” (which you can pre-orderhere), his process and why surfing culture is such fertile ground for queer art.

FULL ARTICLE :

https://www.surfer.com/features/artist-stephen-milners-work-creates-an-alternative-queer-surf-history/

Members’ blog: Tyler Megarry

11:38 AM in Members' blogs by Tyler M.

Written by Elie Landesberg and originally published on surfthegreats.org


Site’s like gaysurfers.net offer me that opportunity to connect with queer people over a shared love of surfing. It offers a space for that particular part of my identity where surfing and being queer overlap to just exist and be expressed with others who have that shared experience. There’s something really special in that. ” Tyler Megarry


Surfer’s Voice is an exploration of Canadian surf culture through the lens of the real individuals who make up surf communities from coast to coast with every lake and river in between.

For our latest installment we caught up with surfer and instructor Tyler Megarry to learn about his surf journey in Eastern Canada, and to hear some of his thoughts regarding LGBTQ2S+ representation in surfing.

Tyler heading out for a spring session in Montreal.

Where are you from? Where do you live?

I grew up in Winnipeg. I then moved to Montreal and lived there twelve years. Now I live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Have been here for three years now.

Favourite local break?

Said break shall remain nameless, but it’s a fun right with a beautiful view and always chill vibes.

Favourite break in the world?

To be determined. I’ve only surfed once outside of Canada so I can’t really say. I’m looking forward to being able to surf and travel more after I wrap up my studies this spring.

How did you first get into surfing?

When I was living in Montreal a friend’s brother who surfed came for a visit. He wanted to check out surfing in the river, which I didn’t even know was a thing at the time. I’d always wanted to try surfing so I tagged along. I was instantly hooked. I bought a punch-card at the rental shop and surfed 2-3 times a week all summer at Vague à Guy. That fall I bought a used board, built a board rack for my bike and started going to Habitat 67. The rest is history.

Tyler’s rig below the Montreal skyline.

How would you describe the surf scene in Montreal?

Montreal has a surprisingly big surf scene for somewhere not on the ocean. There’s local shapers, an annual board swap, film screenings, the usual surf community type of things. The lineup was pretty friendly. I had a great schedule and could surf weekdays all morning long, so I avoided the crowds. We were usually the same people going at that time and it was a great vibe; laid-back, friendly and people just having fun. That’s what I like in a lineup.

An early morning session at Montreal’s Habitat ‘67.

Was surfing part of the motivation behind the move to Nova Scotia?

Big time. I was looking at programs around Canada for school and when I saw that I could study in Nova Scotia and surf, it was a done deal. Honestly though, even if I hadn’t been looking at schools, I probably would have moved here to be able to surf more. I’ve loved living here so far and plan to stick around after I graduate this spring.

How does the surf scene in Nova Scotia compare to Montreal ? Do you see any consistencies among the scenes? Are there any specific Canadian traits that you can pinpoint in or around the water?

There are definitely lots of similarities. Both have very active scenes and great people doing interesting things. I did notice one difference though. Seeing as Montreal had a couple river waves that run pretty consistently from spring until fall, compared to Nova Scotia where it can be flat for a while between swells, it creates a different dynamic. In Montreal I knew some surfers but we never cross paths at the wave because we would go at different times depending on our schedules. When it’s working, you can kind of just go when you want. Here when there’s waves, people make it happen to be out there. There’s a different excitement in the air. I find that dynamic creates a different bond with the surf community that I like. As far as Canadian traits, I haven’t really surfed outside of Canada so I couldn’t say.

Tyler sliding down a perfect cold Atlantic right-hander. Photo by Karl Funk 

Have you changed your quiver up moving from river to coastal surf?

Well, I’m not really much of a quiver queen. I had one board on the go at a time in Montreal. I came here and made the switch from a short board to a longboard in the first year. So I guess more of a size queen? I’ve been mostly riding that since. There’s some awesome local shapers here and I’m dreaming up a new board that’s a bit shorter than my current 9’8. Now that I’ve been surfing here a few years I have a better idea of what I’d like. 

You mention meeting our friend (and Surf the Greats founder) Antonio online prior to your first ocean surf in California, can you tell us a little bit about how that came to be? Can you recall that session?

We met through the website Gaysurfers.net, which I had learnt about from the surf documentary Out In the Lineup. There is a group for Canadian surfers and myself and Antonio connected there. We began messaging about meeting up for a surf, either in the lakes or in the river. At the time, I was in California to visit some family and mentioned off-hand that I was planning to try surfing in the ocean for the first time. Antonio wrote back saying he was going to be flying into California in a couple days. Total coincidence that we both were going to be in California at the same time. So when he got in we met up and went surfing!

Tyler’s dawn patrol in Oceanside with Antonio and Cory. Photo by Cory Patterson. 

I’ll never forget that first session. We met up at San Onofre. I was so excited and nervous. There was a pretty decent swell that day. As we paddled out, fog started rolling in. We surfed till dark in a huge blanket of fog. I couldn’t see the shore, big waves were rolling at me out of the fog, you’d catch glimpses of other surfers from time to time, the whole experience was surreal. I remember lying in bed that night and I could still feel myself bobbing in the ocean. I barely slept because I was so excited to surf again the next day. Antonio picked me up the next morning bright and early and we were back in the water at Oceanside for first light. I also got to tag along with him as he met up with some other surfers, shapers and photographers. It was my first real exposure to surf culture and my first real surf bud! Plus I got to repay the favour that following spring when Antonio came up to Montreal and I took him out to H67 for his first time river surfing.

What was the impetuous behind using a website like gaysurfers.net, as opposed to a mainstream surf website? Was it because of stigma in the lineups or was it more of a way to connect over a shared cultural experience?

I’ve never hid who I am surfing and am lucky to have never felt any direct discrimination, but I know lots of queer surfers still do. I’ve heard people throw around some derogatory words amongst themselves, which never feels good to overhear, but those have really been few and far between. I can only speak from my experience, but I wouldn’t say those experiences are representative of the scenes in either Montreal or Nova Scotia, rather a few ignorant individuals. Both scenes have been very open and I’ve felt not just welcomed, but appreciated for being who I am out in the line-up. That’s a great feeling.

Even though I feel welcomed I still like to use sites like gaysurfers.net. Being a surfer and being queer are both important parts of my identity and it’s been important for me to have spaces where they intersect. Sometimes they feel separate because I am either in one community or the other, which sometimes feels a bit isolating. Site’s like gaysurfers.net offer me that opportunity to connect with queer people over a shared love of surfing. It offers a space for that particular part of my identity where surfing and being queer overlap to just exist and be expressed with others who have that shared experience. There’s something really special in that. I’m finishing up a three year stint of school pretty soon and am stoked to travel and surf more and hopefully meet some amazing queer surfers along the way!

Can you tell us about your experiences as a surf instructor? How did the LGBTQ2S+ session come about? What was the response like?

The idea for a lesson came before I began instructing. Over the years I’d met many queer people who expressed an interest in trying surfing but had some hesitation. I thought it would be fun to organize a lesson during Halifax Pride and try to encourage more queer people to give surfing a try. I wasn’t sure where to start, but the Surfing Association of Nova Scotia helped me get it off the ground and put me in touch with East Coast Surf School. Everyone was super stoked about the idea and helped me pull it together. It was a neat experience because we had to think about what are some of the barriers that members from the queer community face when it comes to surfing and figure out how to break those down. For example, the beach having no gender-neutral change area or someone being misgendered when getting their wetsuit. Myself and the ECSS team worked together to find solutions to do our best to create a safe and non-intimidating space for people. I also got funding through Halifax Pride for ASL/English interpretation so the lesson would be accessible to Deaf and Hard of Hearing members of the Queer community.

In the end, the lesson was a huge success! We had 23 people come out. There were great waves to learn on, people were having a blast and I got awesome feedback from both the participants and the instructors! I really could not have pulled it off without the amazing team at ECSS. They put in their all and were open to whatever was needed to make this a success and I could not be more grateful. I also had so much support and encouragement from SANS (Surfing Association of Nova Scotia) the larger surf community. There was so much genuine stoke and support for what I was doing. Those interactions really solidified my trust with the surf community here as a queer person. I have a lot of love and respect for the surf community in Nova Scotia. 

And regarding instructing, while organizing the lesson with ECSS, they offered me a job with them over the summer. It was something new for me. I had a total blast! I loved helping people catch their first wave. Surfing can be intimidating for anyone to start, so I was happy I got to be a part of a positive first experience for so many people.

Do you notice any changes in your own surfing, since you have started instructing?

Definitely! It helped me better understand what I was doing on a technical level, plus notice where I had some bad habits to break. Also, spending time with the other staff who have such a wealth of knowledge, I learned so much more about surfing.

Do you have any surfing mentors or heroes?

I could rattle off some names of pro surfers who have a style I like, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t call any one person a mentor or a hero. There are some amazing local surfers here who I have gotten to know over the past few years. They have great style and lots of knowledge. They give me tips and feedback on my surfing, and are always open to answer my questions. No one has to take time out of their session to do that, but they do, so I am very grateful for that. 

What is it about surfing that appeals to you?

So many things, it’s hard to narrow it down. One main thing would be the positive impact it has on my mental health. When I started surfing I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and I was in a rut. Surfing was new and sparked an excitement in me that I needed at that time. It was something to look forward to, it helped me gain confidence and it gave me the push to make those changes I wanted for myself. Now surfing is just part of the overall care I do for myself. I’m an anxious person, but when I surf I can usually leave that all behind. It gets me out of my head and into the moment. I get to focus my energy on the ocean and the elements around me. On a lighter note, surfing is just plain fun! I love the adventure of driving around checking out spots, bumping into friends at breaks, hanging out in nature, running into the freezing ocean in February. All of it is just a blast.

Does your life as a surfer have any impact on your life out of the water?

Definitely. Surfing feels like a break from the world when I paddle out and get to leave  everything else behind. I know having these moments helps me feel more grounded and calm in my life outside of the water. Plus, I now hate making plans too far in advance in case a good swell rolls through. So, more wishy-washy? Commitment issues?

Can you tell us about the Polaroid project you have been working on? 

I don’t know if I would call it a project, just something fun I like to do. I carry around a Polaroid camera and offer to take photos of surfers with their boards then give them the picture. Some are strangers, some are people I know. I don’t post the pictures myself or keep them. I just do it to share the stoke and create good vibes in the community. Lots of times I don’t ever see how the picture turns out. But it’s nice to think they’re out there somewhere on a fridge or on someone’s dash. And people are pretty happy when I offer, which is always a good feeling.

Lastly do you have any other words you would like to share with our readers in the wider surf world?

I think we still have a long way to go in regards to representation and diversity in surfing. In regards to queer representation, there is a new generation of queer kids coming up right now who are pushing to change the current heteronormative structures we have in place. I find it really inspiring! A lot of these queer kids are also the next generation of surfers and will be pushing back against these structures that are in place in the surf world too. I hope we can all be open, supportive and embrace what they have to offer. I’m excited to see what they bring to surfing and where we go from here!   

OUT IN THE LINE-UP from Gay Surfers on Vimeo.

Check out East Coast Surf School and Surfing Association of Nova ScotiaGaysurfers.net is a network for LGBTQ2S+ surfers.
Queer surfers worldwide and anyone who wants to connect with Tyler can contact him on https://www.gaysurfers.net/members/tylermtl/

Elie Landesberg Profile

We’re all roomies on this ball of water and dirt.. Find him on Instagram.

Wavesisters SURF WEEK

3:33 PM in Surf Trip by thomasadmin

A surf trip for women

14.03.-22.03.20 @ Wavesisters Surf & Yoga Camp Lanzarote
09.05.-17.05.20 @ Wavesisters Surf & Yoga Camp Portugal

You always wanted to learn how to surf and you were looking for a gender-non-conforming surf group? Here we go!
We welcome all queers: lesbian, gay, bi, trans, inter, non-binary people!
Join our Queer Only Week and learn how to surf or improve your surf skills! The beach is super close by and our cozy surf house has a great terrace waiting for you after relaxing from our yoga and surf sessions and for a delicious BBQ at the end of the day.
Our weekly packages are the same well proven ones we do for our girls only weeks and our team is looking forward to pass on to you all knowledge and give you a happy time with a like-minded group!
Our groups are small, so spots are rare.

Please email info@gaysurfers.net for more info on how to book !

The Rise of the Queer Surf Community

4:38 PM in Articles by thomasadmin

Article published in GQ magazine – by GABE BERGADO

For many queer people, it’s hard to find spaces where we feel like we can thrive and be ourselves. Many of us find pride in nightlife; others meet fellow LGBTQ people through gay sports leagues, an opportunity to find chosen family while playing kickball or water polo. So the recently blossoming cottage industry of gay surf communities marks another, much-needed space that allows queer people to be their authentic selves—while also getting trained in a sport they might have long been interested in but never felt like they could be a part of.

It’s still early days for the LGBTQ surf world, but visible communities of queer surfers have begun to bubble up in recent years, spaces welcoming everyone from longtime thrill-seekers who’ve felt the need to keep their sexuality under wraps to those seeking the joy of riding a wave for the first time in their lives.

South Brazil native Marta Dalla Chiesa is just one advocate spearheading this changing current. She and her partner Lesley Cushing co-own Brazil Ecojourneys, a tour operator based out of Florianopolis dedicated to sustainable tourism. One of their most buzzed-about packages is called, simply, Gay Surf Brazil; it’s a weeklong retreat that connects LGBTQ+ people interested in surfing while also helping to fight homophobia in surfing by simply existing within the space. It was started in 2013, originally in partnership with Thomas Castets, the founder of the social network GaySurfers.net and producer of Out in the Line-up, a documentary about what it’s like to be gay in the world of surfing.

“I had never realized the extent of homophobia in surfing,” Dalla Chiesa says “I always had the impression surfers are so chill, that they wouldn’t be bothered about this. When Thomas called me and talked about his film, you see how homophobic [things can be], especially at the professional level. In the States or Australia, I think the homophobia is there even if it’s subdued.”

Out in the Line-up offers a sweeping overview of the challenges that gay surfers around the world have faced, including finding kinship with people like themselves—a common struggle in the LGBTQ community—and a lack of sponsorships as out gay surfers at the professional level. In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Castets explained surfing’s deep-rooted homophobia in more depth.

“Surfing is, unfortunately, primarily a male-dominated sport. And when you have all these men traveling together, hunting for waves, there is an element to the psychology that is about making sure there is no ambiguity between the men,” he said. “To prove your heterosexuality, you need to prove your skills in the water. There have never really been any gay surfers out there, so I would just call that ignorance and a lack of visibility.”

Pop culture has certainly helped perpetuate the mass ideas about what a “typical” surfer is supposed to look like. The Endless Summer might be from the ‘60s, but it’s still one of the most iconic surfer films around, featuring two tanned, ripped bros carrying around surfboards in search of the perfect wave. Marketing for popular surfer brands also continue to be heteronormative, reinforcing archaic gender roles—Billabong landed in hot water back in 2017 for an ad that many called sexist because while it showed a male surfer shredding waves, the female was featured posing sensually on the beach in a bikini with no surfboard in sight.

Over the past few years hosting Gay Surf Brazil, Dalla Chiesa has heard stories from people who didn’t feel comfortable diving into the sport because of its “macho culture.” Things like “I always wanted to surf, but I didn’t have the courage because I’m a bit effeminate” or “I would feel bad surfing around macho surfers that might look at me funny,” she says. One year, she met a young man from Rio who’d grown up by the sea but didn’t feel comfortable enough to try surfing until he was with a school of other queer people who supported him. This reassuring environment has proved to be vital in not only everyone’s experience throughout the week, but also having people come back for another go.

Dalla Chiesa says participants return year after year thanks to the connections they’ve created through surfing together, especially for those whose first time was through her trips. Attendees who have met through the program have even started planning their own trips together; Dalla Chiesa has gone on to surf with clients all over the world.

For her, she says, it’s about community, a chosen family of queer surfers who know they’ll find like-minded support in each other, perhaps for the first time in their lives. “If you are [out] there on your own, it’s harder than if you are in a group,” she says about learning to surf. “People that are doing it for the first time, from every step they do to the first wave, people as a group really encourage them and we cheer. So people feel really included and that, I think, forms a bond,” she says. “We have a sense of community. There is more than surfing that’s linking us. Our queerness is linking everybody.”

In the United Kingdom, London-based actor Mattie Stewart and his friend Kris Cieslak have been planning trips they’ve dubbed Gay Surf Week for the past three years. Stewart only started surfing three years ago while on a trip to Fuerteventura in Spain’s Canary Islands and fell in love with the sport, so he and Cieslak decided to turn it into a hashtag (#GaySurfWeek) and a yearly travel destination. The first year, there were six people; it grew to 12 the following year, and then 18 this past year—cottage, sure, but expanding and opening new doors as it does. Stewart grew up extremely religious in Poland and was even studying to become a priest before coming out. Now, organizing Gay Surf Week has become a retreat of sorts, giving him the opportunity to find camaraderie with other gay surfers.

“For me, surfing and seeing that everyone else is proud of my achievement is such a big thing,” he says. “The biggest achievement for us [this past year] was when it was eight of us standing [on our boards at] the same time. The moment is priceless … It’s better to surf together than surf by yourself.”

Surfing has provided some life lessons for Stewart, he says, who sees parallels between riding a wave and overcoming hardships. While standing on your board, for instance, you have to keep your head straight and eyes locked on the shore or you risk falling, an apt metaphor for staying focused on your goals. And of course, there’s the occasional wipe out, a reminder that sometimes shit just knocks you off your feet.

But Dalla Chiesa mentions some hurdles in continuing what she’s helped create, including the current political climate in Brazil. While same-sex marriage is legal and Brazil’s Supreme Court voted in favor of making homophobia and transphobia crimes, violence against LGBTQ people continues. In 2018, 420 LGBT people were killed across Brazil according to the rights group the Grupo Gay da Bahia. Additionally, Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s current far-right president and a self-declared homophobe said earlier this year that “we can’t let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise. Brazil can’t be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism. We have families.” (Bolsonaro is also infamously known for having said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.)

Due largely to the political situation in Brazil at the moment and some cancellations, Gay Surf Brazil has had to put plans for this year’s festivities on hold. But since they know they have a committed community looking forward to reuniting, Dalla Chiesa has started looking into possibly organizing the trip elsewhere (Mexico, Portugal, and an as-yet determined European country are all on her short list).

Gay Surf Trip in Sagres, Portugal – Septembre 2019

7:26 PM in Events, Surf Trip by thomasadmin

GS is teaming up with Sagres Sun Stay to organise a surf trip in Sagres, Portugal 22/09/2019 to 29/09/2019.

Sports Activities Packages

Surf – Beginners
· Breakfast included;
· 7 nights in one of our accommodation options;
· 5 days of lunch boxes;
· 5-day transportation;
· 5 days of surf classes taught by certified surf teachers;
· 2 lessons of surf classes per day;
· All equipment included from top brands: wetsuit and surfboard (equipment insurance not included);
· 1 trip to see Cape St. Vincent’s sunset;
· Personal insurance coverage during classes.
Additional notes:
Because we are eco-friendly every client that buys at least one night in our dormitories has a shower per day included on the rate. Additional shower time will have an additional cost
Please note if you choose the Twin Room is only possible to start the packages on Mondays. For this reason, check-in on Sunday and departure on a Saturday, is mandatorily. However, if you arrange arrival on a different day talk with us to see our availability.


Windsurf – Beginners
· Breakfast included;
· 7 nights in one of our accommodation options;
· 5 days of lunch boxes;
· 5-day transportation;
· 5 days of windsurf classes taught by certified windsurf teachers;
· 8 hours + 2 hours (Bonus) of windsurf lessons per week;
· All equipment included from top brands: wetsuit, lifejacket and helmet (equipment insurance not included);
· Free SUP and kayak use (pre-reservation needed). Time available depending on the number of students;
· Slalom and free race boards for flat water blasting;
· Rescue boat available;
· Personal insurance coverage during classes.
Additional notes:
Because we are eco-friendly every client that buys at least one night in our dormitories has a shower per day included on the rate. Additional shower time will have an additional cost
Please note if you choose the Twin Room is only possible to start the packages on Mondays. For this reason, check-in on Sunday and departure on a Saturday, is mandatorily. However, if you arrange arrival on a different day talk with us to see our availability.

Windsurf –Intermediate & Advanced
· Breakfast included;
· 7 nights in one of our accommodation options;
· 5 days of lunch boxes
· 5-day transportation;
· 4 hours of windsurf classes (in 2 days) + 3 days of free renting of the equipment (equipment insurance not included);
· All equipment included from top brands: wetsuit, harness, lifejacket and helmet;
· Please note that the 1st class includes a test level.
· Free SUP and kayak use (pre-reservation needed). Time available depending on number of students;
· Slalom and free race boards for flat water blasting;
· Rescue boat;
· Personal insurance coverage, during classes.
Additional notes:
Because we are eco-friendly every client that buys at least one night in our dormitories has a shower per day included on the rate. Additional shower time will have an additional cost
Please note if you choose the Twin Room is only possible to start the packages on Mondays. For this reason, check-in on Sunday and departure on a Saturday, is mandatorily. However, if you arrange arrival on a different day talk with us to see our availability.


Combo windsurf + surf
Having a hard time to decide between Surf and Windsurf? Why not trying both?
· Breakfast included;
· 7 nights in one of our accommodation options;
· 5 days of lunch boxes;
· 5-day transportation;
· 3 days of surf classes taught by certified surf teachers;
· 2 days of windsurf classes taught by certified windsurf teachers;
· 9 hours of surf classes and 4 hours +1 hour (Bonus) of windsurf lessons. Please note that the 1st class includes a test level.
· All equipment included.
· Free SUP and kayak use (pre-reservation needed). Time available depending on the number of students;
· Slalom and free race boards for flat water blasting during windsuf class days;
· Personal insurance coverage, during classes.
Additional notes:
Because we are eco-friendly every client that buys at least one night in our dormitories has a shower per day included on the rate. Additional shower time will have an additional cost
Please note if you choose the Twin Room is only possible to start the packages on Mondays. For this reason, check-in on Sunday and departure on a Saturday, is mandatorily. However, if you arrange arrival on a different day talk with us to see our availability.

PRICE is 499 euros for 7 days – Ask for a 10% discount if you book through GS !

Surf Lesson
Our Surf School is located in Sagres in the most idyllic and unique areas of Algarve. With us you can find waves all year around and will be an unforgettable experience. We promise to adapt each level to each individual, taking in account your well-being and learning goals. Coupling a professional knowledge and teaching method with a friendly and interactive coaching approach, we guarantee satisfaction, great memories, and a good development of your skills.
Whether you are looking for a quieter place to stay and practice surf or to immerse yourself in a diverse and young surfing community, you are sure to look forward to an enjoyable and fun adventure while staying with us.

Our classes include:
Surf lesson taught by a professional and certified surf coach;
Lunch box;
Transport to and from the best spot on the day
2 lessons of surf classes per day (1h30 + 1h30)
Essential surfing equipment including softboards and accessories tailored to the needs of students
Insurance

Please contact Sagres Sun Stay :

Sagres Sun Stay

Sitio do Poço8650-375 SagresTelf: +351 282 625 345Web: https://sagressunstay.com/

How gay-friendly is Australia’s beach culture ?

4:16 PM in Articles by thomasadmin

Written by Gary Nunn – Originally published by the GUARDIAN.

“Surfers go to south Bondi, backpackers, families and people from western Sydney go in the middle, then gays go to north Bondi.”

The advice Dan Murphy was given upon arriving in Sydney from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in 2003 is an unspoken rule. For Australia’s famous but relatively small beach, each social group is remarkably compartmentalised. It was to become prophetic: Murphy is now one of 1,094 Lifesavers with Pride (LGBTQI lifesavers and their allies) – in the North Bondi patrol.

But Australia’s beaches haven’t always been a safe space for the LGBTQI community. Before homosexuality was decriminalised (1984 in New South Wales all the way through to 1997 in Tasmania), some beach areas became “beats” – venues where gay men could discreetly hook up because society offered few spaces for them to meet and be intimate. But there’s a dark history – these places became the scenes of violent homophobic hate attacks.

 

In September 2018, the Liberal MP Shayne Mallard announced a parliamentary inquiry into homophobic hate crimes committed between 1970 and 2010. This includes 30 outstanding cases of at least 88 murders.

Many murders resulted in gay men being found dead at the bottom or on top of beach clifftops. One high-profile case is Scott Johnson, 27, found at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head, in 1988. Police are now offering a $1m reward for information leading to conviction – after initially, inaccurately, denying the area was a beat.

In October 2018, Waverley council announced a memorial monument will be built at the cliffside Marks Park, south of Bondi, following the homophobic attacks and murders of men at this beat.

But Australian beach culture, Murphy says, remains more conservative than beaches like Sitges in Spain, “where there are cocktails, DJs and parties right on the sand”. To “camp things up”, Murphy produced two flash mob videos on Bondi beach – one featuring drag queen Joyce Mange in 2009, and another in December 2015 where professional drag queens Minnie Cooper and Penny Tration re-enact the song 100 Degrees by Dannii and Kylie Minogue (retweeted by both sisters).

Gaysurfers.net was set up by Sydney resident Thomas Castets, in 2010. It was a call out: he wanted to see if other LGBTQI surfers were out there. Within a week, 50 people joined. Now, the website has 8,000 members globally. Castets made the film Out In The Line Up about attitudes towards LGBTQI surfers. He interviewed Dr Clifton Evers, who said: “When you get these groups of guys bonding … you’ll get homophobia because you somehow have to draw a line – as this cannot be seen as homoerotic. So you either objectify women – that leads to sexism – or you work on the premise that we must prove our heterosexuality. We must prove we’re not gay and we must reiterate that.” The professional surfer Barton Lynch explained it was common to call someone “faggot” or “poofter” when they didn’t catch a wave – homophobic language he has avoided since his brother came out.

Brisbane’s Fernando Claro was “surprised at how accepting and welcoming” Australia’s swim and beach culture is. He swam competitively in Peru but remembers “jokes about gays swimming with us” and being punched in his swim group. “They’d say, ‘careful getting naked in front of him’.” In the 12 years he’s been in Australia, Claro has become the president of the LGBTQI swim group Aqualicious and has patrolled Gold Coast beaches as a lifesaver for three years. “I wanted to meet gay people in a healthy environment and get fit along the way,” he says. “Me and my partner have no problems holding hands or hugging when we walk along Queensland’s beaches. I feel safe.”

Lesbian and bisexual women make up a third of members of Lifesavers with Pride. Many, its president Gay Driscoll says, join for the family environment and their children join Nippers.

Kate Fitzpatrick, from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, says: “My feelings towards feeling safe at the beach as a lesbian are much like being anywhere else. When wanting to give affection to my fiancé there’s always the vital scout around to ‘assess’ the area. I’ve suffered homophobia, usually men with snide remarks or thinking it’s a compliment to say ‘that’s hot’. It’s harassment and makes me feel unsafe.”

Coogee’s female-only McIver Ladies Baths have been called a “lesbian lair” – although it’s hard to find evidence of them being anything more than a safe space exclusively for women.

According to Gavin Patterson and John Walker, Australia has long had a gay beach subculture. The couple, who run the blog GayMenOnHoliday.com, cite nudist beaches such as Little Congwong at La Perouse (an unofficial nudist beach which police have previously raided), Lady Jane and Obelisk beaches in Sydney, Port Douglas’s Turtle Cove resort and the “world famous” Kings Beach at Byron Bay.

The couple say the associated non-conformity and liberation of nudist beaches often make them popular with gay people: “As gay people, our freedoms were somewhat restricted. These beaches are an opportunity to relax and enjoy camaraderie with your like-minded subcultural group in a very natural way.” Before social media and apps, they say the beaches were a way of meeting other gay people. “These people don’t want to hang with parents and screaming kids,” they say, adding that Queensland has no official nude beaches, unlike NSW.

Aussie beach culture may have progressed, but the puritanism Murphy perceived persists in 2019. “We’re more conservative than France, or Berlin, where you can shed all your clothes in the Tiergarten Park,” Patterson says. “Nobody bats an eyelid.”

Interview with John Witzig

5:41 PM in FEATURED, Stories by thomasadmin

John Witzig bloodied head – 1977

Australian surf photographer and journalist John Witzig documented some of the most important events in surfing through the 1960s and 70s. I remember reading that John was gay in an article by Nick Carroll. So when he came down to Sydney for another photo exhibition, I decided to introduce myself and ask him a few questions :

BIOGRAPHY

What is your name?

John Witzig

Where you live now?

In the scrub between Maclean and Brooms Head on the NSW north coast.

What is your job?

Principally it’s managing an archive of photographs that I shot over a decade and a half from the mid-1960s. The income that I get from that is so pathetic that even the government understands and they give me a part pension. And just in case anyone thinks that I’m living in luxury on the public purse, my total income is less than the minimum wage.

Can you tell us about your career as a photographer, writer, journalist, editor?

My ‘career’ in surfing publications lasted for that fifteen-year period. It began at Surfing World magazine where I’d contributed articles, and where, in mid-1967, the publisher, Bob Evans, let me edit and design a complete issue. It was July/August, and it would come to be known as the ‘New Era’ issue.

That same year I was poached to be the founding editor of a new magazine, Surf International, published by Gareth Powell. The magazine never made any money and in early 1970 (I think) I was sacked. My final issue had the theme of ‘Country soul’… the movement of surfers to live in the coastal county near good surf breaks.

Albe Falzon, David Elfick and I started Tracks in late 1970. It was a tabloid newspaper that had immediacy… something that the glossy magazines that were printed in Asia were denied. In addition to surfing, Tracks also covered politics, environmental issues, music and the sorts of issues that concerned us… and we hoped, our readers. My direct involvement only lasted for a year and a half because Albe and David wanted to concentrate on films and leave the magazine for me to produce. It was presented to me as a fait accompli and I said ‘no’.

Headless McTavish – 1966

Can you tell us about the article you wrote ‘We’re tops now’?

My friend Nat Young had won the third World Surfing Championships in San Diego in 1966. Californian David Nuuhiwa had been seen by the US magazines as the hot favourite, and his defeat presented the surfing industry there with something of a problem. They had warehouses full of nose-riders that they needed to sell. Their solution was to ignore Nat’s win.

Surfer magazine published an execrable article called ‘The High Performers’ (maybe in early 1967) with a group of Californian surfers gushing over one another. It was so absurd that I pulled out a story I’d run in Surfing World that compared Australian and US surfers, amped it up (quite a bit) and sent it to John Severson at Surfer. Severson amped it up just a little more, and gave it the awful title ‘We’re Tops Now’.

To say it caused a bit of a fuss is a major understatement. Surfer had letters about it into a second year. George Greenough was delighted… he loved the shit-stir. Fifty years later, Matt Warshaw (author of The Encyclopedia of Surfing) would write “Witzig… in response to Surfer shamelessly stonewalling Australia’s rise to dominance after the 1966 World Championships… roasted the entire purblind Dana Point Surf Establishment with ‘We’re Tops Now’—still the best, most righteous ‘fuck you’ surf article ever published.”

Arcadia – 1969

SURFING

When did you start surfing?

About 1959 I think… when I was 14 or 15. This was the time when what we called the ‘Malibu’ boards were becoming more readily available. Prior to that Australians has surfed hollow plywood paddle boards that were BIG, uncontrollable and simply absurd. A Californian lifeguard team had bought ‘modern’ boards with fins to Australia for displays in association with the Olympic Games that were held in Melbourne in 1956. Balsa wasn’t available for some time… my first two boards were hollow plywood copies of the Californian boards.

Do you still surf today?

Nah… my body began to collapse in my mid-40s. I have chronic osteo-arthritis.

What is your connection to surfing?

In any contemporary sense? None at all.

I have arguably the best documentary archive of the Australian contribution to the shortboard revolution from the mid-1960s, and those pictures continue to be in demand for magazines, books and films. In part because I was editing magazines and knew what sort of pictures I wanted to tell stories with; and in part because I think it was a natural inclination, I tended to take pictures of the life around me in the surfing community. Those pictures are now seen as a social document of their time and have attracted the attention of institutional galleries.

I have occasional exhibitions… both independently and on the regional gallery circuit. That’s a link to surfing in some sense, but it’s tenuous.

Grafton Regional Gallery – 2017 – Photograph by Al Mackinnon

PHOTOGRAPHY

When did you start showing an interest to photography?

Definitely by the time that I was a teenager. I was image obsessed, and magazine obsessed. Somehow I became aware of a German magazine called Twen that was first published in 1959 and lasted eleven years. It was a showcase of great European photography (especially) and superb graphic design. I used to go into the city from my suburban home just to get the magazine. I also admired some of the photojournalism in Life magazine… this was the time of the war in Vietnam and of the outbreak of hippydom in San Francisco. Both were extraordinary subjects for photographers.

I’d also ‘discovered’ Cartier-Bresson early, and he became my first photographic hero.

What drove you to take photos of surfing?

I knew Ron Perrott, one of the best Australian surf photographers, and he introduced me to the joys and mysteries of the darkroom… and quite frankly, standing on the beach with a long lens shooting surfing pictures looked easy. Ron loaned me a camera and lens in (I think) 1961 and I shot my first roll of film of a kid called Nat Young at Collaroy Point. I took it to the chemist to be processed and I still have a couple of those very small prints.

Can you tell us how you meet Greenough, Midget Farrelly, Bob McTavish, Mark Richards, Nat Young?

All of them are individuals, and I met them at differing times and circumstances. In the very early 1960s, the Sydney north-side surfing scene was a very small world, so you got to know quite a lot of the characters. I got my driving licence in 1961, so could borrow my mother’s Beetle and get around the stretch of coast that ran from North Palm Beach to Fairy Bower. It was natural to meet people like Midget and Nat in those years.

Bob McTavish came to Sydney in the early 1960s, and somehow it was inevitable that we’d connect. George I would meet through Bob when they were both living around Alexandra Headlands in 1964 or ’65.

I knew Mark Richards’ parents because they carted him around to the contests like Bells which I’d first gone to in 1963… those events were great gatherings of the surfing tribe. More than a decade later Mark would be responsible for my scoring a room next to his on Oahu’s North Shore for the 1976–77 winter… and for introducing me to the locals at Haleiwa (which meant that I got some waves).

Why did you start travelling with them and taking photos?

I traveled with Nat and Bob more than a bit, George only a couple of times, Midget and MR never.

I was editing surfing magazines from mid-1966, and these were my friends. They also happened to be enormously influential surfers at a period of dramatic change. Of course I’d tell their story.

There was no attempt at objectivity in the sense of documenting the complete picture… and there was no money to do that. I continue to insist that I tell ‘a’ story… not ‘the’ story’.

Mark Richards at Haleiwa – 1967

HOMOSEXUALITY IN SURFING

How would you define surfing to the outsider? As a popular culture, sub-culture, or something else?

In the 1960s, I’d guess that it was a sub-culture. Apart from being looked upon with distain, surfers were ignored by the wider community. We had our own magazines and our own films. The wider world didn’t know much about us.

That began to change in the 1970s as business sought to connect themselves to the authenticity of surfers. The increasing popularity of surfing naturally bought it to the attention of the broader community.

In your experience, how is gender identity, especially masculinity, shaped and influenced by surfing?

Well, apart from gay surfers feeling the need to hide – hugely important, but not the question – then I don’t see how any of it is influenced by surfing.

Have you ever met any other surfer who happened to be gay?

I’ve met surfers who I assumed were probably gay, and I never asked them.

Do you think a surfer who is gay would be accepted in the surfing communities that you have been living in?

My time in a surfing community finished around 1980… so we’re talking about history. The fact that I was closeted through almost the entire time answers the question I guess.

I obviously maintained a lot of friendships after I met my partner Yann in 1980. It seemed to me that most people I knew well were happy for me. The moments of discomfort were rare as I recollect.

Yann, Myall Lakes – mid-1980s

SEXUALITY

How do you define your sexuality?

Do you mean how do I see myself? I’m a gay man.

How did you deal with your sexuality in the course of your life?

Poorly… it took me a long time to come to terms with being attracted to other guys. I did all the usual embarrassing things like trying to deny it; like being infatuated with straight friends (who mostly remained my friends); and being quite sure that I was in love with one or two of them.

When did you find out you were gay?

With the benefit of hindsight it was obvious when I was 13 or 14.

When did you come out to your friends and family?

In 1980 when I was 36 years old and I met someone I liked who seemed to like me. He moved into my house… at first because he needed a place to stay, but he didn’t leave.

I never announced anything to anyone… people could assume what they liked.

How did they react?

Almost without exception, my good friends simply included Yann in our collective lives. One old friend had a minor problem as his religion told him that I was an ‘abomination’. I kept away from him for some time, but eventually he seemed somehow to reconcile the situation.

What are your ambitions, hopes and aspirations?

My hope is to stay healthy, to continue to see what I might be able to do with my archive because it’s interesting… and to be happy.

Yann, Paris – mid-1980s

HOMOPHOBIA

Is surfing homophobic?

Oh sure… astonishingly so given that this is 2018.

If so, do you think it is due to the stereotype that people have of surfers?

No I don’t. Somehow surfing’s social attitudes just got stuck in the 1950s, and even the remarkable approval of the same-sex-marriage plebiscite seems not to have dented that in the slightest.

Can pro surfers really be open about their sexuality or do you think it would affect their sponsorship?

I’d be pretty certain that it would affect sponsorship… and sadly that seems to apply to many or most sports.

Surfing is seen as a sport of freedom, do you think this image is true?

It can be true, but maybe increasingly less so in competition. I probably shouldn’t comment about something that I don’t follow, so disregard my opinion on that. I am sure that it applies to that fortunate few who get support simply for being the great free surfers that they are. That handful of idiosyncratic individuals might offer a real hope to make a break on the prevailing homophobia… and I’m not suggesting that any one of them is gay… I have no idea. I do admire them though.

Do you think surfing is moving towards a greater diversity/tolerance?

From my limited observation, I don’t see any sign of it.

How can heterosexual surfers best be ‘allies’ to gay surfers and communities?

It might mean challenging expressions of homophobia when they occur… not something that’s necessarily easy to do. It might mean not being silent over some current controversy that has bought the haters out. It might mean publicly expressing admiration for the achievements of a gay individual. I like the idea that we can bring change about by acting in the way we’d like the world to be… rather than the way we observe it as being.

A wide range of John Witzig’s prints are available at johnwitzig.com.au.

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